11/12/17 Minutes

Students’ Council Weekly Meeting

Sunday 12 November 2017

5:20PM–6:45PM

notes by Jake Ogata Bernstein

 

Meeting Minutes

 

Table of Contents

  1. Attendance
  2. Moment of Silence
  3. Check-in
  4. LOOP presentation
    1. Challenges
    2. Group/Club/Organization/Office pages
    3. Discussion boards
    4. Ask/Offer
    5. Polls
    6. Questions
  5. AllStrugglesOneCode discussion
  6. RE: Kim Benston’s response to the Plenary Resolutions
  7. The interim plan for Lunt Café
  8. Action Items

 

Attendance

  • Walt is absent; Mariana and Katie have Mock Trial
  • Nathan Sokolic ‘19 (“NS”) joins us to talk about LOOP

 

Moment of Silence

 

Check-in (Rose/Bud/Thorn)

  • Cole will have a week
  • Saif beat Cesar at pool; lost directly thereafter at beer pong; his birthday is today, and we wish him a happy one!
  • Joey is feeling weird; he went to a concert last night with a friend whose boyfriend he hates. He also went to zine workshop that was too punk for his taste (and Joey is not an anarchist, though he would like to be friends with some of the anarchists he met)
  • Cesar will see his sister soon; he also finished big problem sets this past week
  • Sydney spent the day in Philadelphia yesterday, and is having trouble readjusting to life at Haverford—especially since she’s got lots of work to do tonight
  • Leslie got more than 7 hours of sleep both of the last two nights (a round of applause is had)
  • Noorie sees her mom and friends soon!
  • Simon is looking forward to payday this week (aren’t we all?); happy that lots of people got out to vote on Election Day (which was this past Tuesday); he watched Memento for the second time (a brief discussion surrounding that movie is had, with rampant spoilers)
  • Julia saw her parents, and finished the hardest week of work she’s had yet at Haverford; also, she hung out with a really cute guy last night (we agree that she should text him back and invite him to one of our open SC meetings—a Haverford guy!)
  • Saumya has worked past a thesis block, which is awesome!
  • Yan is looking forward to the week after this coming one, but not so much this one—he needs to do laundry, and is currently wearing his last clean pair of underwear (side-note: Cesar got kicked out of doing his laundry at Bryn Mawr by Public Safety; Fords be warned!)
  • Victoria has two big midterms on Wednesday: Orgo and Bio—as well as two papers. Rachel wants Victoria to ask for extensions, even if she doesn’t get them, but Victoria doesn’t think she will. On the bright side, she got a new sketchbook, and a new journal.
  • Nathan finished a big paper, and is excited for the launch of LOOP this week.
  • Rachel turned 22 yesterday (she is definitely feeling 22). Yesterday, she went to an anti-Islamophobia arts-related event in Philadelphia; her thesis draft needs to be finished in the next 3 days, since she is going to DC for the weekend for a leadership conference; she also needs to do laundry
  • Jake forgot to write down what he said
  • Shayan has a busy week

 

LOOP presentation

Nathan has come to tell us about LOOP, and has a pretty chic PowerPoint presentation demo!

 

He asks us what we know already about Loop. Folks posit that it will replace Havertivity, it may help to predict the likelihood of students leaving campus, and it helps folks to stay updated about upcoming events that they might be interested. Nathan indicates that all of this is true, and begins his presentation in earnest.

 

LOOP will be released in a preliminary, MVP (minimum viable product) form this week, after testing is completed.

 

The LOOP project came out of a series of observations—by himself, and by Ian Andolsek ’17. One of the main observations was the way that information and people form clusters on social media, and the ways that this is both good and bad for community-building. From there, they were interested in creating some sort of platform to help everybody to enter the Haverford community on a relatively even playing field, in terms of social interaction and social networking.

 

Like Havertivity and the Haverford website, LOOP will contain some of the basic information that folks need to be on campus, including Blue Bus schedules, meal times and menus, etc. In addition to this, LOOP’s main functionality will be in terms of its social networking platform, which has been developed with helps from employees of Facebook, as well as from some members of the sociology department at the University of Chicago, who have a specific focus on social networks and platforms.

 

The LOOP social networking platform will aim to maximize student-to-student, student-to-office, person-to-person, etc. interactions, in a style that Nathan refers to as “face-to-face,” whether it be over LOOP or in the physical world.

 

The interface will be similarly user-centric to Facebook (in contrast, say, to MySpace, which I’m reasonably confident that almost nobody in this room remembers), where a user’s page, from their perspective, is dynamic and populated by information from other users, groups, events, etc.—not just the user’s own data and information. Users will be able to subscribe to tags, boards, and other resources, in order to select some of the basic topics or fields that they are interested in. From there, the platform will begin to suggest events, groups, and forums for the user, based on their expressed preferences and interests. The LOOP system will be integrated with Haverford EMS, the event reservation system, allowing LOOP to be automatically populated with all of the events that are reserved through this other mechanism.

 

Some other types of resources on LOOP include Challenges, Group/Club/Organization pages, Office pages, Discussion Boards, an Ask/Offer feature, and Polls. All of these features are explained in more depth by Nathan.

 

Challenges

Nathan has been collaborating with SC Officer Victoria Merino ’20 and Representative Noorie Chowdhury ’21 on developing the Challenges feature. Basically, a Challenge would be an activity, event, or task sponsored by one or more clubs, organizations, offices, or individuals, with the goal of pushing folks to engage with others and bring the community together. These Challenges could be broad (applicable to everyone in the community) or narrowly specific (applying only to a subset of community members), and may be incentivized at first, in order to encourage folks to participate.

 

The idea for the beginning will be to have one overarching Challenge per month, sponsored by a different group or set of groups (currently, ALAS, BSL, and the Haverford College Historical Society have expressed direct interest, and other groups are encouraged to reach out to Nathan, Victoria, and Noorie as LOOP gets started if they have interest in sponsoring or co-sponsoring a Challenge). These monthly Challenges would conclude with an on-campus event, which contestants would be encouraged to attend in order to find out if they had won, simultaneously bringing people together and engaging them with the community.

 

Group/Club/Organization/Office pages

Hopefully, these individualized pages will maximize effective and efficient communication between groups/offices, between students and groups/offices, and between groups/offices and the College. They will also record and reflect more accurate patterns of behavior and event attendance than, say, replying “Going” to a Facebook event, which doesn’t actually indicate whether or not you ever attended the event. This will allow groups and the College to make more informed decisions about budgeting, club organization, event planning, information dispersal, etc. Also, this platform will allow for the admin position to be transferred over time.

Discussion boards

These will be available for users to subscribe to. They will contain a variety of basic topics that are applicable to interests on campus. They will also be a forum for campus alerts and announcements, with the goal of eventually replacing most/all HC-ALL emails with LOOP.

 

Ask/Offer

This feature would allow users to post a request for services, help, advice, etc., as well as to offer such services. Only if you are interested and click to accept the Ask or Offer will you be able to see who is posting it, and then you can be in touch with them directly.

 

Polls

Polls will be available in order to collect feedback or information from users. This could be used for anything from checking campus opinion on important issues to gathering information for Clerk articles, and much more.

 

Questions

  • Q: since content is suggested to users based on what they already like, how can we avoid a situation like Facebook has where algorithms tailored to users’ behavior only shows or suggests things that they already like, as opposed to pushing the envelope of what they’re interested in/showing them new things/challenging their views?
    • A: it’s a small campus, and it’s therefore a pretty small network. Also, the boards, for example, are going to start out being pretty general (e.g., “music,” not “punk music”), so users will be able to do some self-defined filtering to find what they’re interested in on the platform, whereas the notifications they get will only be for the things they have already expressed direct interest in
  • Q: will LOOP be solely mobile, or will it also have a computer aspect?
    • A: for users, it will only be mobile: we have version developed for iOS as well as for Android platforms. We are working with the Office of Access and Disability Services (ADS) to ensure that the application is going to be accessible to all students. Administrators will be able to use it on a computer.
  • Q: what types of testing have been done?
    • A: white box testing (back-end code, security and encryption features, etc.) and black box testing (testing out the features available to users through the user interface)
  • Q: what sorts of policies will be in place with regards to free speech?
    • Mike Elias and Mr. Coleman (from Enterprise) have been collaborating with the LOOP team to develop reasonable guidelines for this, but ultimately any final decision will be up to Mike Elias. In all likelihood, the main sources of content violation will be somebody posting something in the wrong place (e.g., memes on a discussion board about the DC). Repeated infractions might result in your account being suspended for some length of time.

 

In conclusion, LOOP aims to create a “visible landscape of opportunities, for everyone” (NS ’19) with the goal of having something appealing for every user. Thanks, Nathan!

AllStrugglesOneCode discussion

Leslie leads the discussion here.

 

Some members of SC have been talking, and have come to two main questions with regard to the relationship between Students’ Council and the document drawn up by the group of students responsible for organizing the #AllStrugglesOneCode at Fall Plenary:

  1. How do we address the movement in general?
  2. How do we make concrete decisions and action plans based on the vague language in the document (which was left intentionally vague in order to allow flexibility on the part of the organizers and protestors)?

 

The second point in “The Aftermath” section of the protest document encourages Students’ Council, Honor Council, and members of the Customs orientation program to engage more directly and with greater frequency and attendance with the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA). Rachel suggests that this could be helped by the LOOP platform: for example, groups like SC or HC could partner together through the Challenges feature to host events, ask for joint funding, etc. Simon suggests making certain meetings mandatory, like the re:ACT conversations, however, Leslie brings up the point that we want people in attendance in spaces like those to be there because they are interested in engaging, not just because they are trying to fulfill a mandatory attendance requirement.

 

Rachel mentions that SC meetings are open, and suggests that in addition to attending these meetings, it might make sense to hold a bimonthly town hall meeting with members of SC on specific topics. Jake notes that he and Michael Martinez have already been working towards starting something like this at the beginning of next semester. Noorie notes that most people don’t realize that SC meetings are open to the community. Julia asks whether an email reminder about this every Sunday would make sense; Noorie thinks even just 1 email mentioning it to the community now would probably do the trick.

 

Sydney volleys off of the ideas around the Students’ Council and suggests that we devote some portion of our weekly Sunday meetings specifically to hearing students’ concerns, questions, etc., sort of like professors’ office hours. There is general agreement that this could be beneficial, although Victoria cautions us against calling them “office hours,” since this might not be inviting. Saumya and Julia note that this would mean that our meetings would likely last longer, however most of the room indicates that they would be comfortable committing to this extra time in order to better serve the student body. We discuss whether to put this block at the beginning or the end of meetings—there are pros and cons either way. Perhaps we would do it twice a month, not every week; immediate issues could be taken up with your class representative; and an open form will likely be added to the website (once it is redesigned) for students to submit feedback.

 

In addition to a town hall, Cole’s suggests a meet-and-greet similar to the “Meet the Deans” event from earlier this fall, and Saumya puts forward the idea of having a weekly weeknight open SC dinner in the Sunken Lounge of the DC. Joey notes that any of these would inherently increase engagement. Julia questions whether students would actually take advantage of any of these opportunities, even if we publicized them and made them at times that are generally available to students. Simon notes that any effort is a good effort, even if it isn’t perfect, and Rachel mentions that having people in the same place, having conversations and overhearing things they might not have thought of otherwise creates a good environment for student to figure out some of the mechanisms by which they can go about reporting or solving issues that they care about and/or are concerned about, instead of just complaining about them (e.g., the lack of outlets in the Coop, a situation which Rachel is working to fix already).

 

Saumya suggests an end-of-the-semester mixer with SC/HC/community members, and Julia clarifies: “not a mixer; a banger!” Victoria also suggests that SC members increase their presence at campus events, especially large ones or those catering to lots of members of the community, and that perhaps we could make a video explaining what goes on in SC to help people who have never been a part of SC or been to an SC meeting to understand how it operates.

 

Leslie brings the conversation back to #AllStrugglesOneCode.

 

The third point in “The Aftermath” section of the protest document encourages Students’ Council and Honor Council to make a greater effort to have and to attend spaces where people are having discussion about identity. Saif again points to the issue of requiring folks to attend things being that some people will take up space rather than joining into the space. He wants to open a better forum for dialogues around issues on campus, which Simon notes could be led by affinity group heads, or by anyone who is interested. Noorie also notes that affinity groups and other campus groups involved directly with conversations around identity can invite SC members specifically to come to certain events, if they would like, which Sydney likes, because it makes sure that the attendance is on the terms of the groups themselves.

 

Sydney suggests that a more sustainable and practical method for this type of engagement could be that some representatives go to different events, and then all report back to SC. She would also like to incorporate a beginning-of-the-semester workshop around incorporating a concern for identity into our discussions, in order to avoid SC conversations from becoming just about weekly logistics and losing sight of the bigger picture of Students’ Council.

 

Julia suggests that Sydney could work on this for next semester, perhaps for a mini-retreat (Rachel hopes there will be one, since she was appointed post-retreat this Fall). Victoria notes that a retreat partway through the year would be a terrific way to touch base, reinvigorate, and continue to hold ourselves and each other accountable to the goals and projects that we set out for ourselves in the beginning-of-the-fall-semester retreat. This would also help to clarify the role of SC to us and by extension to the community, as well as giving us more whole-semester projects and goals, as opposed to coming up with ideas on the fly and running with them, to the potential detriment of other, long-term goals. Rachel notes that this would also allow for us to work more deliberately on developing an array of leadership styles, and Noorie reinforces the point that it would enable clearer and more effective communication between members of Students’ Council, providing sort of a halfway-point mass update on everything that we are each doing.

 

The fifth point in “The Aftermath” section of the protest document asks for more consistent financial support for community houses going forward. Saif thinks that they get consistent funding, and have historically, though Leslie notes that although funding of each house is reasonably consistent, there are huge disparities between what one house versus another is being awarded. Saumya notes that Mike Elias and the Student Leadership Advisory Committee (SLAC) have been working actively to reformat budgeting with regard to these sorts of concerns, and aim to create more transparency around budgeting decisions and guidelines in the future.

 

Leslie and the rest of the #AllStrugglesOneCode organizers will plan to talk about everything that was discussed here and get back to us.

 

Some general notes you’ll only find if you’re actually reading this whole thing <3

Julia notes that all of the work that we have been doing, and will continue to do, regarding the restructuring of Students’ Council will hopefully lead to better and greater communication between all of us on Council, in addition to with Council and the community. From now on, each of us will share meeting updates on all meetings that we have pertinent to our positions with one another on a shared Google Doc. Once we get the new website up and running, we will plan to post updates there for the whole community to see.

 

Joey suggests an SC filmmaker to catalog meetings and goings-on (Cole might be interested). In future meetings, we will reserve some time for folks to share updates, and then we will have discussions and other meeting tasks to attend to.

 

RE: Kim Benston’s response to the Plenary Resolutions

Saif and Simon were not surprised by his responses, and think they make sense. Rachel notes that Kim’s responses to both of the resolutions, and to the things that he took issue with that prevented him from approving them, are a big heads-up to the student body that they need to be very careful with the language that they are using in future resolutions, as well as that they definitely will need to work closely with the administration and do their research in order to make sure that future resolutions are okay with all of the necessary folks.

 

Saumya notes that one of the problems with both of the resolutions is that they spoke to Kim about them after they had already drafted the content, instead of while they were formulating the ideas, so he sort of had his hands tied in terms of what he could do to support them at that point. Julia adds that Kim takes resolutions very seriously: some years ago, before he was President, a different President approved a resolution banning plastic water bottles from campus, but it was not followed up on, and such bottles remain on our campus. He wants to avoid any sort of situation like this.

 

Jake expresses his frustration—as one of the resolution co-writers and the boyfriend of a co-writer of the resolution—at the fact that both teams of resolution writers met at length with Kim and other relevant administrators, who all gave their feedback in ways that indicated that, if their feedback was followed, the resolutions would be able to be approved by the Administration, yet still they were not. He felt that the administrative folks, including Kim, who were involved in this process were not as transparent with their feelings and priorities as they could have been, nor were they as helpful as they could have been, during the pre-Plenary development of the resolutions.

 

Rachel notes that one of the major issues, especially with the Community Day of Engagement resolution, was that the resolution writers did not necessarily go through the right avenues to garner approval from members of the administration (e.g., SAAC => Wendy, not straight to Wendy). Going off of this, Saumya points out that pushback from the faculty and the Educational Policy Committee (EPC) was one of the main constraints on the Community Day of Engagement resolution, and that perhaps the resolution writers should have consulted in more depth with faculty members before bringing the resolution to Plenary. Saif notes that Kim cares not only about the words of the resolutions, but about how they could be interpreted by others (what would people think if they found out that the College cancelled a day of classes but wasn’t willing to cancel athletics? What would that say about our priorities as an institution?).

 

Leslie, however, notes that we’re in a difficult space now, where there was already a lot of apathy surrounding Plenary and student self-governance, and now that both of the resolutions that we passed at Plenary were rejected, there is even more, especially from members of the first-year class, whose only experience with student self-governance at Haverford was the result of this Fall’s Plenary. How can we make Plenary seem useful again?

 

Saif also brings up his discomfort with the fact that a resolution such as the Community Day of Engagement, which would affect each individual student at Haverford, could be passed by a non-unanimous vote. Rachel notes that it’s hard to get consensus with 1200 students (well, ~600, but same difference, right?), and that this might be cause for talking about reformatting the style of Plenary into smaller groups, rather than the presentational style that it currently has. Saif also notes that some people who don’t attend Plenary don’t choose not to go; they have work, or other commitments, or homework—and even those who go didn’t necessarily read the resolution that they’re voting on. It all makes him a bit uncomfortable in terms of how decision are made.

 

Saumya brings up that many people have been questioning whether we really have self-governance, as a student body, since it is still a member of the administration who must approve or deny the decisions that we make; we’re not truly autonomous. Joey bemoans the fact that we’re not allowed to make mistakes and learn from them; rather, when it comes to Plenary resolutions, for example, we have to have a definite plan of how it’s going to go and what we anticipate happening before we’re even out of the gate with an idea. Especially when it comes to pushing outside of the boundaries of what we have done before, Joey thinks that a more open framework would work better. Jake agrees, and notes that failure is one of the most effective learning tools/mechanisms.

 

Saif and other members of Council suggest that we should go ahead with a version of the Community Day of Engagement without the support of a Plenary resolution, and see how it goes. We do, as Students’ Council, have the power to make whatever changes to Plenary we wish before it is held, so this would be possible, were we to be interested in it.

 

Rachel cautions us—and herself—against the mindset that if everybody isn’t involved in something that it isn’t effective; even if some people are engaged, it’s effective for them! Make sure to remember the positive of things, not just the negative.

 

Julia closes by noting that when she was at the Swarthmore Students’ Council this past week, they were shocked to hear about Plenary, and that we have the ability to get up in front of the entire (well…) student body and share our ideas, opinions, and changes to our Constitution (their process for constitutional changes is apparently convoluted and difficult). Plenary affords us special privileges, as does being a Haverford student, and it seems that folks are starting to take these for granted. How do we increase engagement in these types of events? Maybe a restructuring—of a lot of things—is in order.

 

There is a meeting being held by the writers of the Community Day of Engagement resolution this Tuesday from 6–7pm. Those who are interested in continuing this conversation should go!

 

The interim plan for Lunt Café

Saif talks about the plans to supplement Lunt Café in the time that it is closed, not just in terms of wages for its workers, but the food and social space that it provides, as Jake highlighted that this is important for a large subset of our community. We will be using the remaining money that will not go towards Lunt Café for the rest of the semester to subsidize food trucks on Friday and Saturday nights, and the Co-Treasurers are working with Ben Hughes in the OMA to put about $300 towards stocking the MCC with frozen dinners and ramen and things like that, to be open as a nightly study/hangout space akin to what Lunt used to be. This space would probably be open from 10–1 each night, perhaps in collaboration with the OAR, and likely staffed or monitored by a couple of people each night. Saumya notes that we don’t have enough people to consent this week, but we will bring it up next week.

 

Action Items

  • Julia, text that cute guy back
  • Groups that are interested in being a part of the Challenges feature of LOOP should reach out to Nathan, Victoria, and/or Noorie ASAP
  • The Co-Presidents will release an email reminding the Haverford community that SC meetings will be Sunday 5:15–6:45 in general, in DC 030, and that they are, and have historically been,  OPEN TO THE COLLEGE COMMUNITY!
  • Leslie will bring our thoughts on #AllStrugglesOneCode to the organizers
  • Sydney will work to organize a beginning-of-the-Spring-semester workshop around keeping discussions of identity in the forefront of our minds while having other conversations, especially in SC meetings
  • The Co-Presidents or the Co-Secretaries will create a shared Google Doc for all SC members to post meeting updates into each week, until the website is up and running
  • People who are interested in continuing discussion about the Plenary resolutions should attend the meeting from 6–7pm on Thursday night